We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Juri Jung and Mignon Dunn

Being a great singer does not guarantee being a skilled pedagogue but it's always a pleasure to find an artist who impresses us in both roles. Last night was our last opportunity to share in the excitement of the International Vocal Arts Institute. We have been exposed to so many up and coming young artists who seem to have grown a great deal through their participation.

Mignon Dunn's master class was not just an opportunity to hear more of these young artists but an opportunity to learn what to listen for and what to appreciate. Ms. Dunn, in a brief 15-20 minutes, was able to identify exactly what each young singer needed to improve the aria that he or she chose to present. There was no boilerplate, not just one issue that she emphasized for all comers.  No! Each young artist got individualized attention and a pointer or two to take them to the next level.

Tenor Alexei Kuznietsov is already quite a star in his homeland, the Ukraine. But moving onto the opera stage requires new techniques and he has grown considerably during his time spent with IVAI. He just needed to hear the advice not to pack in the breath and push out sound. He also needed a boost to get into the character of Don Jose in the "Flower Aria" from Bizet's Carmen. Everyone noticed the difference.

Soprano Claire Wilmoth sang "Du bist der Lenz" from Act I of Wagner's Die Walkure. This is our favorite part of the entire Ring Cycle and we were thrilled to hear it sung by someone with Wagnerian potential. What was needed here was some dramatic verisimilitude. Ms. Dunn coached Ms. Wilmoth to recite Wagner's alliterative poetry and to recite it slowly. Ms. Wilmoth was still a bit on the declamatory side until Ms. Dunn asked her to whisper it. Then, and only then, did she sing it as beautifully as one would have wished.  As a matter of fact, we have been reciting it all night at a whisper and feeling the beauty of the discovery of love. Yes, Wagner did write gorgeous poetry and yes, it is just as important as the music.

Baritone Evan Henke had a marvelous lesson from Ms. Dunn. At first, his serenade "Deh vieni alla finestra" was not quite convincing. It was too sweet, too polite.  Don Giovanni is a vile seducer and some of what Tarquinius puts into his aria in Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia was just what was needed to make the performance consistent with the character. We couldn't help noticing that Mr. Henke has a marvelous embouchure which carried over even into Britten's English.

Tenor Hyunho Cho performed "Recondita armonia" from Act I of Puccini's Tosca. Ms. Dunn pointed out a subtlety that we had overlooked but we will never miss it again! The painter Cavaradossi must show more feeling when he describes his brunette lover Floria Tosca than when he describes the blond woman in his painting of the virgin. That means fewer portamenti for the Virgin! Ms. Dunn wanted more beauty and less volume. Also she mentioned that is was OK to leave out the "s" in Tosca at the upper end of the register where the voice seems to catch.  Franco Corelli was mentioned as an artist who never pronounced an "s" and everyone had a good giggle.

Mr. Cho also sang "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's Turandot. He needed to trust his voice more and not to push so hard. A borrowed pair of earplugs did the trick! Further, he needed to find a good placement for the final "Vincero!" and to hold the final syllable longer.  These tips made a big difference.

Soprano Juri Jung closed the class with Adele's "Audition Aria" from Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus. This is a marvelous audition piece in which the soprano gets to overdo it as she tries to convey all the different roles she could perform. Ms. Jung nailed the adorableness of the role and her vocal performance dazzled us with it's embellishments and fine trill. She negotiated the wide skips with ease and Ms. Dunn's main suggestion was to portray more desperation. Probably everyone in attendance was recalling how hard they try when they audition!

Peiwen Chen did her usual fine work as accompanist.

Although prior commitments will prevent us from enjoying the final two IVAI events, we would like to encourage you to attend tonight's performance of Puccini's Suor Angelica. With all the marvelous women singers we heard over the course of the institute, it should be a real treat.

Also, there is a recital of American Art Song Saturday night. This is not our thing but it may be yours!  Go!  Enjoy!

(c) meche kroop

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